3 minute read
January 13, 2018

My biggest usability issue with Gutenberg

I've spent a lot of time recently writing about the multitude of issues with Gutenberg from a developer's perspective. Today though, I'm going to talk about my biggest issue with Gutenberg as a user.

For those of you who don't know what Gutenberg is, it is a feature of the next major update to WordPress. That update is due to land sometime in April this year. Gutenberg specifically is an update to the editor interface – the bit where you write and edit content posted on your WordPress-powered site.

First, a bit of a history. I haven't been a developer my entire career. Before going full-time with development in 2013, I worked as a journalist. Journalists are – without a shadow of a doubt – the heaviest users of content management systems. That includes WordPress.

Some of the biggest names in the media use WordPress to power their sites – TechCrunch, the New Yorker, BBC America, Variety to name a few. There are also tens of thousands of other smaller, industry-focused outlets that use WordPress.

All have the same thing in common. They output huge amounts of content every day.

Problem: We don't (and you shouldn't) write directly into the editor.

There's an assumption with the way Gutenberg has been built that we write and edit in the editor. That's wrong.

We write in separate applications and then paste in. I use Byword to write and Hemmingway to edit. I know a lot of others who do too. There are a multitude of other applications out there too. The point is, they never, NEVER write directly into the editor.

Now while it's possible to paste an entire document into the editor with ease, have you ever tried to delete it so you can re-add it? Nope. It's a painful experience that requires you to delete each blog individually. And that process isn't as simple as clicking an X at the top of the box.

Oh no.

How do we make this as difficult as possible...?

You have to click on the three dots that appear only when hovering over each block and then click and find the delete link (which is in the middle of a ton of blocks). It's terrible UX all around.

If we make changes to stories, we often make changes in our text editor of choice and then paste them in. We've all been burned in the past by internet connections dropping and us losing our work.

In other words, the editor isn't fit for purpose for the heaviest of users. Instead, it is going to get in their way. And guess what. When it does roll out and it breaks things, they're going to be the first – and the most vocal – to complain about it.

It's a matter of testing. And they haven't. Clearly.

If you're a developer, you're bound to have seen those funny videos titled something like 'two unit tests, zero integration tests'.

Two unit tests, zero integration tests

That's exactly where Gutenberg is right now. They might have integration tests, but they've clearly never actually had a real user test it out. Because if they had, they'd be screaming at them in the same way as developers are to stop and go back to the drawing board.